Steven Sahiounie, political commentator
1. Steven, please tell us about yourself and how you ended up managing Mideast Discourse.
Steven: I am a Syrian American, and grew up in Latakia, Syria, attended school there, and I came to Lebanon 4 years ago to study further. I began journalism in 2011 when the war on Syria started, and I felt I had to share the truth based on the facts on the ground. I have written articles in the hundreds, in both Arabic and English, and my most well-known article is, “The Day Before Deraa”, which has become the definitive explanation of how the war started in Syria, and when it was planned. I kept writing and moving from agency to agency until, in the end, I became the manager and editor of MidEast Discourse.
2. In my first book “44 Days”, I wrote that the gates of Jerusalem have changed hands 44 times in its 5,000-year history and will undoubtedly change again. I also wrote that almost all global geopolitical events revolve around the fate of Jerusalem, even with far off countries like China, and that this ancient city is like a barometer for what ails humanity. I also said that if there is a nuclear World War III, it will likely be started by Israel.
Today, Jerusalem is in the hands of settler-colonial Zionist Israel, which is committing daily genocide on the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza, which is the world’s largest open-air concentration camp. With Western imperial vetoes in the United Nations Security Council (the US, UK, and France), we are powerless to stop the slaughter and for 70 years, daily Western crimes against humanity have become normalized on the global stage. Israel and Eurangloland make a mockery of the United Nations charter.
How long can this go on? When and what will it take for the gates of Jerusalem to change hands a 45th time?
Steven: This is will last as long as the United States, and the European countries are supporting and funding the Israeli occupation; occupying not only Palestinian land, but Lebanese land, Shebaa Farms, and Syrian land, the Golan Heights. As long as the Europeans and Americans are funding, supporting and allowing the Israeli occupation to carry out massacres against the Palestinian people, and to kill and steal their land, it will continue. As long as the Security Council and the United Nations are held hostage by the United States, it will continue. In the last 70 years every time the Security Council and United Nations have come out to condemn the Israeli actions, the Americans veto it. So the United Nations has been held hostage by the United States. To change the situation, it would take the help of the entire Arab world, not only Syria. For the last 7 years, only Syria and Iran were supporting and funding the resistance in Palestine, and not only Palestine but also the resistance in South Lebanon. So, it will take the help of the entire Arab world; but, unfortunately, the Arab countries, and especially the countries in the Arab Gulf, are helping, supporting, and establishing relationships with the Israeli occupation.
3. I know this is a crazy thought, but why don’t a couple or three million neighbors surrounding Israel just start marching to the borders and overrun the place? They couldn’t kill them all.
Steven: First of all, that would cause a war in the region, and that would cause the Americans to step in. If the Americans were to step in, that could evolve into a regional war, and perhaps eventually into a world war. On one side you have Syria and Iran, and on the other side you have the Americans, Europeans, Israeli occupation, and Arab countries that would support the Unites States; so it is unbalanced. The only way to deal with the unbalance is by resistance: small groups of resistance, like what we see in Palestine and Lebanon. This method is the only way to finish and to defeat the occupation. By the use of resistance, the ‘Israelis’ would be forced to sit on the table and give the Palestinians their rights, and the Syrians and the Lebanese as well.
4. Much is made of the infamous “Sunni-Shia” schism in Islam, much like the Catholic-Protestant-Orthodox one in Christianity. It seems to be a defining fixture with relations between largely Shia Iran and the Sunni Gulf States. Yet, I have read that this Muslim divide was not always the case, that before the arrival of the Western empire’s always successful “divide and conquer” playbook, Shias and Sunnis largely co-existed in peace and harmony since the 7th century. Is this true? Is being at each other’s throats Western propaganda to weaken the Muslim world, or has it always been an internecine dog fight?
Steven: This conflict is new between the Sunni and Shiite. Both sects used to live in peace; however, this animosity began after the Islamic revolution of Iran occurred. Before that, the Shah was in charge, and the Muslim sects had a good relationship. Similarly, with Saudi Arabia and Iran, they were friends and allies. As long as the leadership of Iran was an American puppet, the relations were good, and everyone was peaceful. Now, Iran is refusing to be under the hand of the Americans and is part of the resistance. The American and Middle East media, who are supported by the Petro-Dollar, have brainwashed the Arab society. They have made Iran the enemy, and the Shiites, instead of focusing on the real enemy: the Israeli occupation.
5. Ramin Mazaheri just wrote a great article explaining the origins and current events in Lebanon (http://thesaker.is/hiding-the-wests-ongoing-neo-colonialism-in-lebanon-via-blaming-iran-1-2/). He said that blaming Iran for pulling the strings there, via Hezbollah is Big Lie Propaganda to deflect the true reality: Lebanon is still a French colony in all but name and the only finger in the dike of Zionist takeover is Hezbollah.
Please share your thoughts on your country of residence.
Steven: First of all, the situation in Lebanon is not new; it was unstable in the ’70s and ’80s, and we all know that Lebanon went through a really bad civil war. Since the civil war ended and until today, Lebanon is split in half. Half work with the Americans and French, and are like ’employees’ for the Americans and French governments, and the other side is allied with Syria and Iran: like Hezbollah, Amal Movement, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, and others. So, Lebanon is split in half and all of the instability is because there is a foreign and regional struggle inside Lebanon. When the American-Iranian Nuclear deal was in force, Lebanon was stable. When the deal broke down, Lebanon lit up and the tension grew higher. Lebanon’s problem is they are not allowed to be independent in their decisions, as they are run by other foreign powers: either the East or the West.
6. The United States is brazenly stealing Syria’s natural resources, by refusing to leave the country to occupy its oil fields. Not that this kind of imperial theft has not been going on for centuries, but Trump tweeting and bragging about it takes Western exploitation and extraction to new levels of chutzpah. This is an incredible insult to Syria, not to mention Turkey’s occupation of its northern border areas.
How do you see this playing out? Doesn’t Syria have to attack the American forces and take back their rightful land and resources? What will happen to Turkey? Will they annex more Syrian territory?
Steven: We will start at the end: Turkey. The Turkish will pull out under an agreement with the Russians. The Russians will not allow the Turkish to remain indefinitely, especially in North-East Syria where all the oil wells are. We know that the oil wells and gas wells will be developed and repaired by Russian companies. Secondly, concerning an American-Syrian war, and a conflict between the 2 countries: that would be suicide. Syria is a country of 23 million and cannot fight a country of 300 million. The Russians will not get into a war with the United States over Syria, as that would cause a world war. One way to get the Americans out is by the people’s resistance. The residents of the North East may carry out resistance activities. If the American people and taxpayers see their soldiers are coming back in coffins, and they see the people of the area resisting them being there, then the Americans will pressure the Congress to pull out, just like what happened in Vietnam, when the American people pressured the American administration and they forced them to pull out of Vietnam, it was the American people who decided. Concerning the US stealing Syrian oil: the Americans don’t need the oil in the North East of Syria. They are there for one reason only: we know the rebuilding of Syria will cost over 500 billion dollars, and the Americans want their ‘piece of the pie’ in the rebuilding of Syria. The gas, oil, electricity, infrastructure, and everything will need contracts. The US will be putting pressure on the Russians and the Syrians to participate and make a deal with the US. They will offer to pull out if there is a deal made, in exchange for America obtaining contracts in the rebuilding of Syria. But, that will not happen until after the new presidential election. Either Pres. Trump will be making that deal, or a new administration will.
6a. What are the Western (US-EU) sanctions on Syria, and how are they affecting Syrian people?
Steven: The Syrian currency has been greatly devalued, and today every 1 dollar is 750 Syrian lira. Before the war, Syria used to make its gasoline, fuel, clothing, and their food was locally grown. They didn’t need to import anything, they had everything. The Syrian factories in Aleppo were making everything; they did not need to import anything. After the war started, the factories were stolen by the Turkish and the terrorists, the so-called ‘moderate rebels’, the Free Syrian Army. Syria needs to import now, and today Syria only produces 34,000 barrels of oil, while it used to produce 400,000. 34, 000 is not enough for the Syrian people, so they need to import everything, and at the same time, they cannot import anything because of the US-EU sanctions on Syria. Syrian consumers face high prices, while the Syria currency is falling, and we also saw the Americans high-jacked the Iranian oil tanker when it was coming to Syria, to give the Syrian people the oil and the heating fuel for the winter. The economic situation in Syria is dire, but thank God, a lot of factories have re-opened, like the medicine factory, and now Syria is producing 90% of the medicines they need, including cancer medication. Syria has the ability for a quick recovery, and while the economic situation is awful, because of the highly developed agriculture we will not starve.
7. We all know how crucial Russia’s cooperation with Syria is, to keep it from being balkanized and turned into another Western abortion like Libya. But, where does China fit in the picture? A couple of years ago, there was talk that China had quietly sent military advisors to Syria, but in a very Confucian style, it was denied by Baba Beijing. Was and is this true? In either case, is China helping Syria directly with signal, satellite and human intelligence? Or, is it doing so by passing along information via Moscow?
Steven: The Syrian-Chinese relationship and cooperation on all levels are not new, it began before the war and it grew deeper during the war. China used the veto in the UN Security Council several times in favor of the Syrian position, and the exchange of intelligence continues between Syria and China, as it does between Syria and Russia. However, China did not send troops, but they support Syria through the Russians, and they support fighting terrorism. China, like other countries, does not want those terrorists to return home, especially those in Idlib Province. China does not want those terrorists, those murderers, to cause problems for China back home. The whole world would prefer to eliminate the problem in Idlib, but unfortunately, the Americans are supporting those terrorists, so the Idlib military operation is held back.
8. The US refuses to leave Iraq too. Is the West stealing oil there too? Is it to harass Iran? Or, to keep those taxpayer-funded, billion-dollar military contracts and corruption flowing? What’s going on? In a recent RT opinion piece, it was suggested that it is to limit China’s influence (https://www.rt.com/op-ed/472630-iraq-china-american-troops/). What do you think?
Steven: Actually, it is all of those things you just suggested. First of all, let’s start from the war on Iraq in 2003: there was no ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and everyone knew that. It was to steal the oil, the gold, and the antiquities of Iraq. Iraq is one of the oldest inhabited places on the face of the earth. On the first day of the bombing, the Baghdad National Museum was looted of antiquities. The Americans are supporting the corrupt politicians in Iraq today, to obtain contracts for American companies, to profit. At the same time, the reason for the Americans to remain in Iraq is two-fold: to harass Iran from one side, and to hamper the Chinese from the other side. This is tied to the ‘Chinese-American Trade War’. The US came to Benjamin Netanyahu and threatened him after he did contracts with China, and they did the same with Lebanon, they said, “Do not do any contracts with China.” The same thing happened to Egypt. Any country which thinks of putting their hands with China, the US threatens them and blackmails them. This is because China is getting stronger, and many countries of the world are sick and tired of the US being the ‘police of the world’, and they want to do business with other countries. We see that Turkey and Egypt, partially, did business with the Russians. Today, China is a superpower economy, and no one can defeat it. I am focused on the Middle East, but there is a huge trade war going on between China and the US in Africa, concerning the business interests of both countries inside Africa.
9. Besides Mideast Discourse, what other projects do you have in the pipeline?
Steven: I am writing articles, on average about 2 per week, at MidEast Discourse, at the same time I am an editor on the website, in both English and Arabic, so that is taking all of my time. Also, I do TV and radio commentary with CGTV, RT, PressTV, and others.